Wimbledon has just ended with Novak Djokovic winning the championship. Rafael Nadal one of the strong contenders, crashed out in the second round. During the last Wimbledon, Nadal was accused of time wasting by his opponent. That was not the first time. Watching Nadal during matches one would notice the way he crosses the lines, always with his right foot; the precise manner he places his water and energy drink, label facing the court; the way he eats his energy bar in always the same manner; the way and sequence in which he touches his face, shirt and hair. The precision and receptiveness of these activities do waste time. But is it deliberate? Does he employ these tactics to derail his opponent? Is he superstitious? Or is it, as some have suggested, OCD?

What is OCD?

Simply put Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is excessive thoughts (obsessions) that lead to repetitive behaviour (compulsions). It is an anxiety disorder.

Everyone double checks sometimes. For example you might check if you put the stove off or closed the window. But people with OCD feel the need to check things repeatedly, or do certain activities in exactly the same order, or obsess about the same thoughts over and over until they perform a ritual to neutralise the thought. The thoughts and rituals associated with OCD cause distress and get in the way of daily life.

What Causes OCD?

It is not known for sure why some people have OCD and others don’t. OCD usually runs in families and usually begins in childhood around the age of 12. Several parts of the brain may be involved, especially those relating to anxiety and fear. Stress and environmental factors are also said to play a role.

What are the symptoms of OCD?

Obsessions usually centre on themes of contamination, accidental harm to self and others, symmetry and exactness, a need for perfection and forbidden thoughts.

Compulsions can include washing or cleaning, checking, counting, touching, tapping or rubbing, ordering and arranging.

When is a diagnosis made?

Diagnosis of OCD is made when there is a presence of obsessions, compulsions or both, that take up more than one hour per day and that cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Many people live normal lives with some symptoms of OCD. Rafael Nadal is an example. He is a successful tennis player who displays certain symptoms of OCD. OCD becomes severe if it interferes with normal day to day functioning. The course of OCD varies over time. Symptoms may come and go, ease over time or worsen, usually in response to environmental stressors. OCD can manifest with other anxiety disorders or depression.

What is the Treatment?

Treatment for OCD is usually a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Psychotherapy teaches clients more effective ways of behaving and thinking. It helps to ease the fear and anxiety without resorting to obsessive thoughts and compulsions. Obsessive thoughts are challenged and compulsions and systematically reduced.

If you or a loved one is suffering with OCD symptoms and need help please contact Sheethal Behari at Psychmatters on sheethal@psychmatters.co.za or 011 4503575. You do not need to suffer alone.

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